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Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Homogenizer

Key considerations to ensure you select the right model for your applications

Aimee O’Driscoll

Aimee O’Driscoll, BSc, MBA, has a decade of experience as a development chemist and is a seasoned science writer. She can be reached at aimee@aimeeodriscoll.com.

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A homogenizer can often represent a significant capital investment, so choosing the right one for your application is essential. Make the wrong choice, and you could end up spending extra on additional units to satisfy lab needs.

One of the most important factors to consider is the type of homogenizer you need<em-dash>there are many available, and they are all suitable for vastly different applications. Other factors will depend on the type you choose but might include price, minimum or maximum sample volume suitability, sample type, throughput, and placement (for example, handheld or benchtop).

Sample type and desired particle size

A primary factor to consider when selecting a homogenizer is the sample type. Is the sample in liquid or solid form? If liquid, how viscous? Is it sensitive to heat? Is contamination a concern? Liquid samples can be processed using a rotor-stator, ultrasonic, bead mill, or high-pressure homogenizer, but not all types can handle high-viscosity liquids. Paddle blenders (often called stomachers) are suitable for solid samples.

Rotor-stator homogenizers generate a lot of heat, so that might rule out their use for processing temperature-sensitive samples, while bead mills come with a risk of contamination<em-dash>small amounts of bead material may transfer to the sample. Ultrasonic homogenizers generate large amounts of heat and may contaminate samples with a small amount of titanium from the probe.

Desired particle size is also a key factor when choosing the right technology. For example, rotor-stator homogenizers can typically achieve minimum particle sizes of around 2–3 µm, while ultrasonic homogenizers can produce particles below 100 nm.

A primary factor to consider when selecting a homogenizer is the sample type.

Sample size is an important consideration, too, particularly for standalone units (versus inline models). For example, ultrasonic homogenizers can often handle very small volumes but rarely exceed 20 L. Conversely, rotor-stator homogenizer processes are highly scalable but can’t handle very small samples. When selecting a homogenizer, it’s important to consider all the applications you will be using it for, including the various batch sizes.

Other key factors to consider

Of course, the cost will be top of mind when making any capital purchase. However, within the different categories of homogenizers, there is usually a range of brands and corresponding pricing to suit various budgets. Note that it’s also worth comparing manufacturer warranties and service options.

An often-overlooked factor when selecting a homogenizer is the practicality component. For example, space can be a major consideration in a lab already crowded with equipment. Is there space for a benchtop rotor-stator, or would a handheld model be more suitable? You also need to consider ease of use and cleaning time. Some homogenizers can take a long time to clean thoroughly and set up, so they aren’t ideal for high-throughput applications, particularly when cross-contamination of samples is a concern.

 Key takeaways

 There are many factors to consider when purchasing a homogenizer, and the right one for your lab will depend on several application-specific variables. The type of sample, desired particle size, sample size, and cost are all essential considerations. In addition, practical factors such as space constraints and ease of use are important. By taking the time to select the right homogenizer for your needs, you can avoid the need to purchase additional units down the line.